PETALING JAYA: A new standard operating procedure has been released for those looking to carry out their umrah pilgrimmage early next month.
The Tourism, Arts and Culture Ministry announced that the Cabinet on Wednesday (Jan 26) had agreed to re-allow umrah travel activities for pilgrims from Malaysia starting Feb 8.
Earlier, umrah pilgrimages from Malaysia were temporarily suspended from Jan 8 due to concerns over the Covid-19 Omicron variant - to help reduce the risk of Omicron transmission in the country and slow the increase of Covid-19 cases.
"On Jan 8, the government made a difficult but necessary and appropriate decision to temporarily suspend umrah after evaluating the data on the transmission of Covid-19 variant Omicron among pilgrims returning home," the ministry said in a statement on Saturday (Jan 29), adding that all decisions were made after holding engagement sessions with stakeholders.
"Apart from the evaluation of the data by the Health Ministry, the current temporary suspension is intended to provide space for government agencies and all parties involved to evaluate and improve the SOPs of umrah," it said.
Among the focuses of the updated SOPs were:
i. To ensure the umrah congregation was fully vaccinated and mandating booster doses for the safety and wellbeing of the congregation;
ii. That each pilgrim was covered by insurance that provided health coverage including treatment, isolation and quarantine requirements for Covid-19 infection while in Saudi Arabia and upon return to Malaysia; and
iii. The umrah operator company was responsible for informing the pilgrims about the responsibilities, procedures, liabilities and instructions throughout the umrah journey of the pilgrims.
The ministry added that eight engagement sessions had been held since December 2021 involving umrah companies such as the Malaysian Bumiputera Tourism Operating Companies Association (Bumitra), Umrah & Hajj Travel Agency Association (Papuh), and The Malaysian Association of Tour & Travel Agents (Matta).
The umrah travel SOPs which had been refined by the Tourism Ministry, the Health Ministry and the National Disaster Management Agency (Nadma) would be brought to the Quartet Ministers Meeting for approval.
Minister Datuk Seri Nancy Shukri said she hoped that this decision would be welcomed by the umrah operator companies and for the public, and reminded all parties to comply with the latest SOPs that would be announced later to curb the spread of Covid-19.